F1 Power Rankings: Belgian Grand Prix

After four weeks off, the 2011 Formula One World Championship is back in full-force for the stretch run. With eight races to go, Sebastian Vettel holds an 85 point lead over teammate Mark Webber. That’s equivalent to over three race wins meaning Vettel can sit out the next three Grands Prix and still hold a 10 point lead in the championship. It looks like back-to-back titles are in the cards for Vettel but McLaren still like their chances.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
The 2011 World Drivers’ Champion loves this track: “The Spa circuit has everything that a driver dreams of – unbelievably fast corners and slow chicanes, and it can be full of surprises due to the weather. It can be raining one minute and then the sun can be shining the next. The track follows the hills of the Ardennes – and it’s one of my absolute favourites. Eau Rouge and Blanchimont are real highlights – in dry conditions they can be driven without any problems but in the wet it’s a different story and you have to have dig deep to put your foot down.”

#2 Fernando Alonso (LR #3)
Here’s a quote from Alonso that’s about three weeks old but I doubt his opinion has changed too much: “We are realistic and the championship situation is what it is, but we have seen so often that there can be sudden reversals. And after all, we are Ferrari and we have a moral obligation, especially for the millions of fans spread around the world, to always think of the maximum goal. We can’t ever say we will tackle eight races without having the championship in the back of our mind: we will always have an eye on the title, at least until there is no longer the slightest chance.”

#3 Mark Webber (LR #2)
Webber doesn’t think this weekend will come easy to Red Bull: “Spa is unquestionably one of the best tracks on the calendar… It’s a real challenge for drivers and the teams because of the layout of the circuit and the unpredictable weather. Last year’s grand prix was no exception with the weather playing a role and I thoroughly enjoyed the fight with Lewis and Robert for the podium. I expect this weekend to be the same – a tight, competitive fight between Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull.”

#4 Lewis Hamilton (LR #4)
Lewis thinks that Macca is in great shape for the rest of the season: “I think we go into the race weekend in a pretty good place – we’ve won the last two grands prix and the car feels strong; we’ve worked hard to improve the set-up, so it’s really inspiring confidence at the moment, which means you can push it that little bit further, particularly in qualifying.”

#5 Jenson Button (LR #6)
Jenson doesn’t think that the DRS will be that useful this week: “I don’t think DRS will be as critical here as it’s been at some of the other circuits. I’m still not certain where it will be deployed, but there’s always been lots of opportunities to use the slipstream up the hill out of Eau Rouge to pass into Les Combes. It’ll be interesting to see whether DRS can add even more to the show – it should hopefully be another great weekend for Formula 1.”

#6 Felipe Massa (LR #5)
Felipe has come to the realization that Ferrari is out of the title chase: “So now we come to the final eight races of the season, which means there is still a lot of racing ahead of us and I agree with Domenicali that, as a team, we should simply try and win as many races as possible and score plenty of points, without looking too closely at the championship situation. Certainly from a personal point of view, my most immediate aim is to try and record my first victory of this year. It’s not going to be an easy few months, but we are certainly not going to give up.

#7 Nico Rosberg (LR #7)
Keke’s kid thinks his car better than most people give it credit for: “Spa is probably one of my two favourite circuits on the Formula One calendar, along with Suzuka in Japan. It’s not only one of the most challenging tracks that we race at, but it’s also great fun to drive a Formula One car there. The circuit layout has many high-speed areas so it should suit our car well.”

#8 Michael Schumacher (LR #8)
Seven-time is celebrating his 20th anniversary at Spa: “The race in Spa will certainly have a special touch to it this time, as this is where I drove my first ever Formula One race 20 years ago. It’s hard to believe that this was such a long time ago. A lot has changed in those 20 years, but one thing has not: the track is still sensational. I just love the great nature of the location and the resulting layout with all the ups and downs. To me, Spa remains my ‘living room’, because it has been the stage for so many things which have been remarkable for my sporting career. This is why this time I would like to specifically send a big thank you to all my fans for their loyalty and support, which I was happy to receive during those 20 years and also since my comeback.”

#9 Vitaly Petrov (LR #11)

#10 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #10)
Kobayashi thinks keeping your eyes on the skies is critical to success this weekend: “Normally the temperatures are not very hot there, so for the tyres it should not be too difficult. But the weather is always very unpredictable, as it was in Silverstone, at the Nürburgring and in Budapest, so this could be another very tricky race. Sometimes you are in a situation where you have to decide for which conditions you set up the car before you are sure what the weather will be like. If they are difficult, we have to stay cool in the race and make the right decisions.”

#11 Jaime Alguersuari (LR #12)
Apart from the drivers from the top five teams, the hottest driver over the last five Grand Prix has been Alguersuari. He got off his points schneid in Canada and hasn’t looked back since. I thought that he was destined to be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo when the championship returned to Europe for Valencia. Since I talked about his potential replacement, he’s stepped up his game. Now the hammer might come down Buemi thanks to this late surge.

#12 Adrian Sutil (LR #13)
Sutil rates his and Force India’s chances well at Spa: “I think we can have another competitive weekend because the last couple of races have shown what we are capable of. We seem to have a car that is working well everywhere and our qualifying and race pace has been strong. We just need to keep up the momentum and keep picking up the points.”

#13 Sebastien Buemi (LR #15)

#14 Sergio Perez (LR #14)
Sergio is excited about his first Grand Prix at Spa: “I’m very much looking forward to the Belgian Grand Prix… It is one of my favourite circuits because I love Eau Rouge and the other fast corners. I won in Spa in Formula 3, and also last year in GP2. Personally the break was good for me to fully recover from the Monaco accident.”

#15 Rubens Barrichello (LR #16)

#16 Paul di Resta (LR #17)
Dario’s cousin talks about how he spent his summer vacation: “It feels good to be going back racing after a three-week break. I enjoyed the time off, which gave me a chance to recharge my batteries and switch off from Formula 1 for a while. I spent most of the time at home with friends and family. After so much travelling it was nice to stay in the same place for a while and sleep in my own bed.”

#17 Pastor Maldonado (LR #18)

#18 Bruno Senna (First Race)
It’s finally official. Nick Heidfeld is out and Bruno Senna is in. After a few weeks of speculation, Renault was able to get Heidfeld to agree to not to take the team to the cleaners in court and in comes Senna. You see, Renault wanted to dump Heidfeld and say it was due to performance reasons. The problem was that Heidfeld is ahead of Petrov in the standings so they couldn’t legitimately use that as a reason. Instead, it looks like Renault has paid off Heidfeld to step aside. The poor guy deserves better than that. As for Senna, I don’t expect him to do so well in his first race of the season.

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Heikki on the legendary Eau Rouge corner: “Eau Rouge is, of course, the corner everyone talks about and while it is still flat-out it’s actually not that hard for us now, but it’s still a big thrill. Any corner you take at 300km is pretty quick so you hang on the wheel pretty hard so that you don’t get any snap out of the corner, build up a good speed down then you feel all that compression as the car bottoms out through the corner and then you’re up the hill. It’s still very exciting!”

#20 Jarno Trulli (LR #22)
Trulli slightly throws his team under the bus in saying how happy he was only in Hungary: “I’ve had a good rest and after we took such a step forward for me in Hungary I can’t wait to get back on track. Honestly – it’s hard to describe in simple terms just how much happier I was in the car from the very first laps in Budapest but it really was like night and day. For the first time all season I could work on the setup from a baseline I had confidence in, and that puts me and the team in a really good position for the rest of the season.”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #20)
Tim O’Glock is ready to get back racing: “To come back racing in Spa is a perfect way to pick up the rest of the season. It’s one of my favourite races, it’s a fascinating layout and a historical circuit. The track is very fast and long, with some very tricky corners, so any small mistake ruins the lap. The weather is often a factor, especially due to its changeable conditions. Rain can come very quickly here, but this is part of the thrill of racing here. I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to the weekend ahead.”

#22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (LR #21)
This is Jerome’s home Grand Prix. He’s a bit excited about it: “I have been looking forward to my first Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix for a very long time, and now that the weekend has finally arrived I have to say that I am really excited and I can’t wait to race in front of my home fans. It’s been a long time since Belgium had a Formula 1 driver, so it’s going to be a very special weekend both for me and the fans and I’m going to try to enjoy every moment… I am now fully prepared for the weekend at Spa and I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car and racing at home.”

#23 Tonio Liuzzi (LR #23)
Like any good backmarker, even his best Spa memory isn’t that good: “Spa Francorchamps is every driver’s favourite circuit, because of its high-speed nature and the challenge it represents. Our car should be better suited to tracks like this, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a bit of an anniversary because on August 28, 2004 I finished the Formula 3000 race on the second step of the podium having started from pole. For me, Spa is the nicest track of all!”

#24 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #24)
Daniel knows his career podium count. I bet he negotiates his own contracts: “Among several memories from my 55 career podiums, I started from pole and won one of the last Formula 3 British races in Spa in 2009, so it’s a circuit that I know. In the small formula cars it gets boring because you run out of power on all those long straights, but I’m really looking forward to driving a Formula One car there. The weather is always a question mark. I love the middle sector and its great flow. It’s one of the best circuits and should suit us well.”

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